This is my 1st report I've created on this site so I apologize in advance for any errors, misspellings or whatevers. This is a long story but worth reading if you are considering visiting Directbuy, UCC Totalhome or whatever their name is today. I do not work for any retailer, nor do I have any reason to financially gain in the demise of Directbuy. I am just a consumer who was duped into wasting 3 hours of his time so I am spending another hour writing this to make myself feel better for time wasted. This is my personal opinion of my experience at Directbuy.
My girlfriend & I attended a recent open house at the Cherry Hill Directbuy location in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. A friend of a friend mentioned Directbuy & we decided to look into it further. We made an appointment online at the Directbuy website for 2/13/04 at 7pm. We were sent a confirmation of the appointment & someone followed up the day of by phone.
We arrived at a warehouse like building & entered into a makeshift waiting area that was filled with pictorials of clients who have saved big on their purchases with Directbuy. The environment felt eerily reminiscent of the cheezy timeshare meeting we attended in Hawaii for a free Luau. The low-end looking furniture in the waiting room really did the trick.
Tricia (I believe this is her name) greeted us after she was done with another couple ahead of us. She is the owner of the Cherry Hill franchise & her son Kevin is the sales guy who called us & confirmed. We were assigned a sales person, Lou, who was a mix of Gomer Pyle, Mr. Furley of Three's Company & Warren from Something About Mary. Lou, in his Warren-like fashion gave us the lowdown on how we could save huge amounts of money with Directbuy/Totalhome. We filled in a sheet estimating how much we planned to spend in the next 3 years on certain items. Lou advised us he would review the data with the boss (Tricia) to see if we qualified to stay & see the rest of the sales presentation.
d**n, I wish we didn't qualify! We were congratulated for qualifying & thrown into a room with a few other couples/families/suckers & led through a 2 hour presentation by the owner (Tricia, or whatever or Satan given name was). We were shown videos with the corporate UCC bigwigs & some hotshot from CNN news telling us the same info over & over again you'll save bigtimekeep it a secretretailers don't want you to know what we have to offerblah..blah..blah. What the heck do they know? They make millions & they're preaching to me on saving money when they probably spend $70,000+ on a car. Well, the group needed a burst of energy, & we got it; Tricia gently explained the $3500 three-year membership fee & $100+ for the next 7 years. I thought one guy was gonna get up & choke her after that or at least I was hoping he would.
Tricia led us back to our sales reps. We sat down with Gomer again & we explained we were not convinced since we had to sign up now or we could never return again. I explained that we did not have a good frame of reference to see the savings they were offering. Man, it was like I slapped Lou across the face when I said this. How could I not see the great opportunity that they were offering us? I explained that we have recently bought a home but have not shopped for furniture. They showed/told us examples all night long that prove in their minds they offer huge discounts compared to retail stores. Our problem was, you can tell us a table & chairs retail for $5000 in stores & UCC sells it for $2000, but if we don't like the table & chairs & we haven't even seen them retail for that much with our own eyes, then we have no frame of reference. We also thought the stuff they showed us that had deep discounts was crap. We not only would not pay $5000 for it, but we wouldn't pay the $2000 UCC is selling it for. We weren't even sure if we would take it for free considering we would have to move the crap into our house.
We went over this point a few times & Mr. Furly reluctantly searched for some catalogs that we requested to see. We had 3 items we knew the prices of & if they could show us the huge savings than we might say yes to a membership. I bought a $2200 Natuzzi leather reclining sofa & swivel/rocker/recliner chair from Raymour & Flanigan 2 years ago. We were looking to buy a Hitachi 51 inch HDTV monitor from Sears scratch & dent for $1400 that retails at Circuit City for $1800. We also looked at a table set that sells for $1000 at Bassett. Gomer came back empty handed on the Natuzzi catalog because they dropped them as a manufacturer because of slow deliveries & reduction in product quality. While he stumbled around looking for the other two, my girlfriend looked in the Fugi catalog & looked up her recently purchased camera. She paid $220 for it & UCC is selling it for $250, not including the add on fees. Franks&Beans man came back with the other two catalogs. UCC is selling the Hitachi tv for $1900, not including add on fees. As for the Bassett tables, a similar table set at UCC sells for $600, not including add on fees.
We had seen enough. Of the $8,000 we were planning on spending over the next 3 years, not including wish list items, about $4000 of this would go towards furniture, drapes, cabinets & lighting, a.k.a. the deep discounted items that Directbuy advertises. Well we did the math & it wouldn't work for us.
Franks&beans tried to convince us to see what we were missing but there was nothing he could say in his incoherent, babbling manner that could make us change our mind.
On our way out we felt we should let Tricia know a few things that were on our mind now that we felt we were duped into wasting 3 hours of our time. I explained to Tricia it would have been nice if Kevin, who confirmed our appt over the phone, would have prepared us for what we were getting ourselves into.
Maybe tell us to go furniture shopping to get names & prices so we could see the savings. Maybe go look at cabinets, rugs & window treatments to see the huge savings that retailers don't want us to know about. Tricia proceeded to insult us for our lack of intelligence for not being able to see the great offer we were passing up. I proceeded to explain to her that the mattress she bought for $700 that retailed for $2000 is a bad example to use on us. I paid $300 for a queen size Serta pillow top at BJ's wholesale club like millions of others can do. She told us to talk to her in a year when the mattress falls apart. She spoke to soon, I actually have been using my $300 mattress everyday now for 4 years & it is in great shape. We left after about a 10 minute argument which was even a bigger waste of our time. We were hungry & had now wasted 3 & hours on what turned out to be worse than the timeshare offer we suffered through in Hawaii. Tricia's closing comments as we walked out were Good luck paying higher prices. I thought to myself, I just saved $4500 by saying no to your half-assed company.
Here are my points that went unanswered, or went without what we felt was an intelligent answer:
1.) $700 sounds like a bargain to some, but what average Joe would even consider buying a $2000 mattress? What does this mattress do? Does it massage you & feed you grapes before bed? Just because you save $1300 off of what the manufacturer say it is worth, does it mean the item is worth $700? If this rational precludes value, then I have this whole consumer thing all wrong. Value is in the eye of the beholder, or so I thought.
2.) When did Natuzzi leather drop in quality? I thought Natuzzi is one of the better leather furniture manufacturers. If they did drop in quality, does that mean Natuzzi sells lower quality furniture than Ashley furniture? Because Ashley was the most advertised Furniture Company that Directbuy was toting the night of the open house. It was also the furniture that was used to decorate the paper waiting room at Directbuy in Cherry Hill. I think Ashley furniture is one of the worst furniture companies in the biz, looks like bad craftsmanship & low quality materials like Styrofoam & particle board. My mistake! You can feel safe that Directbuy is protecting you as a member from companies like Natuzzi, Pottery Barn, Bombay Co., Pergo, & other companies that they don't do business with.
3.) When did it become ok to stereotype woman & men openly as a corporate sales approach. We were told that woman have love affairs with furniture when they buy it. Men like electronics & gadgets and don't see the value in Directbuy as easy as women do. I was told on more than one occasion, that my questions & hesitance were common for men but women know better. Does this mean men are stupid because we don't see the value or men are stupid because they don't agree with their female owner? I'm confused. What does sex have to do with sales & why did my girlfriend & I feel like we were categorized & labeled just like their UCC catalogs?
4.) If UCC does not provide great savings on items other than furniture than why did we qualify when half our three year buysheet showed that we are heavy electronics buyers. How can a couple who is buying $4000 worth of furniture over the next 3 years save enough to recoup the $3600 3 year membership fees? I'm confused? Does Directbuy know something I don't know because my calculator must be confused as well. We would estimate a savings of $200 on the table set after the add on fees that they could not give us a good estimate on. If we buy a sofa & loveseat & a dining set with the remaining $3000 we were planning on spending retail, how could we save $3600? Not to mention the TV we want is $500 more than what we can get it for at sears, minimum $100 less at circuit city. What about the camera? They not only don't offer discounts on electronics, they are more expensive than the major electronic chains that give you the item that day or in a matter of a few days. Why would I pay more so I can't wait longer as well as handle delivery for & not be able to return if there is a problem. Hmmm?
5.) Directbuy also claims they offer a huge selection of items that retailers don't offer their customers which also is a good reason to join. Ok, so online ordering, retail stores & speciality stores don't give us enough items to look through so I need to spend $3600 for the ability to see the full catalog. By the way, Directbuy doesn't offer a catalog for every manufacturer. So a big bonus as a member is that you get to see the remaining stuff that retailers don't think is good enough to put on their floors for the limited # of retailers that UCC does business with. Hmmm?
6.) Directbuy also claims huge savings on Jewelry as well. If you buy Jewelry from the mall than I agree, they may be able to offer good savings. But if you are buying major ticket items like diamonds, buyer beware. You get what you pay for when it comes to Jewelry & there are no returns when you buy straight from the manufacturer. You want GIA certification? Appraisal services & the like? Good luck. Good luck getting UCC stuff insured from your homeowners insurance as well.
7.) Is there really a pre-qualification before you can see the big sales pitch? Has anyone ever been kicked out before seeing the big sales pitch. Are they really looking out for those of us that the program doesn't work out for?
8.) Tricia told the group before her presentation that questions must be held or written down until after we get back to our sales reps. Her reasoning is that just because you have a question, doesn't mean the person sitting next to you has the same question. Why should he/she be held up any longer than they have to just because you have a question. Granted, no pencils or paper were offered so we could keep track of questions. Moreover, what is the point of FAQ's in almost every corner of business & industry if people usually don't have the same questions? My thought is, if we would have all brought up all of our questions in front of each other they would have had a difficult time selling anything.
9.) They say they have been in business for 33 years. They say their success is obvious because they have been in business so long. They must be saving people money if they have been in business so long. They must be doing people a service since they have lasted so long. Has anyone ever heard of Enron? I bet there are plenty of companies that lasted longer that were doing a disservice to consumers. I bet you can make more money & last longer by stealing & false advertising & having good attorney's than you can by selling an honest product & offering a real money back guarantee.
The bottom line is the Cherry Hill, NJ operation is shady & has some questionable sales tactics. They didn't have intelligent answers to our questions & they could not prove that we could save money on the products we like to buy yet they feel we were making a mistake. I would also say they may be bordering on racial & sexually profiling as well as discrimination based on age, sex & race.
I am not a consumer who buys anything just because I think I'm getting a good price, so Directbuy is not for me. I feel I am a preety smart consumer & can wait a few months for a good deal & can take the time to research any major purchase, so Directbuy is not the option for me. I don't need to spend large sums of money to save money. I can save $4500+ and just do my homework. That way I just saved $4500 with one decision.
Mays Landing, New Jersey